Best books set in Berlin

edited May 2012 in General
The Guardian UK has named "10 of the best book set in Berlin" and March Violets made the cut, natch.

Anybody read any of the others?


  • I've read most of them:
    Isherwood - for instance - is clearly a big inspiration for the Bernie-Gunther-novels since AQF.
    Döblin is THE classic Berlin-novel. The same with the Fallada-books, which took place in pre-war-Berlin.
    I haven't read Nooteboom and Aridjis, but the book by Brussig is really cheap and cheesy; I don't like it.
    McEwans "Innocent" is a good one, but I would trade any John-le-Carré-novel for this one. Especially the last chapter of "Smiley's People", which is - in my opinion - one of the best things ever written about the wall.
    I really like Anna Funders "Stasiland", even though most of my mit-Germans hated this book and clearly disliked her methods of interviewing.
    And finally: "Funeral in Berlin" is a very good Deighton-novel, but still: I like the Bernie-Sampson-series more, and I really love the stand-alone-book in the series, "Winter". Nearly as good as Isherwood.

    I don't know if an english translation exists, but Nicolas Born wrote a few very good books about living in Berlin in the 70's.
    Jörg Fauser wrote a handful of very good crime novels, which took place in Berlin.
    One of the greatest Berlin-novels of the 20's is "Herr Bechers Fiasko" by Martin Kessel.
    And my favorite book about a Berlin that never existed is still "Fatherland" by Robert Harris. Great one!!!

    On the other hand: the worst books playing in Berlin are the novels of Robert Ludlum. Clearly he was never here and his maps were very, very old!
  • Thanks so much, lgoellner! This gives a good idea of what Best of Berlin books to tackle next (after Prague Fatale of course) ;-)
  • I seem to recall a mystery I read many years ago set in an alternate history Berlin, where the Germans didn't lose WW2. They didn't win it either, but basically had control over Europe in a stalemate. It was really good, chronicling the demise of this alternate Germany, but I'll be damned if I can remember the name or even the author.
  • It should be "Fatherland" by Robert Harris.
    Or Len Deightons "SS-GB".
    Or the brilliant "Man In The High Castle" by P.K. Dick.
    I'm not sure if Otto Basils (austrian author, very funny!) "Wenn das der Fuehrer wuesste" is translated in english.
  • For today's very different Berlin, Vladimir Kaminer writes wonderful books in German about everyday life- The thing that impresses about Philip Kerr's books is the amount of detail which makes the books believable-I have had the good luck to visit Berlin many times starting in 1959, and hope that Bernie Gunther's later years might be the subject of another novel- maybe about the Berlin of the decades before and after the wall was built. From the novels so far, we know he was born in acout 1898, so he could easily have known the crazy place that was Berlin in the late 50's- what better place to put him, as so many of the people he annoyed were there-Russians, Americans, British, French, ex-nazis- and` Erich Mielke.
    Best wishes to Philip Kerr for many more creative years!
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